A little test for the historian Cormac Shine

Today, as we grapple with the challenges posed by AI, automation, climate change, and a changing geopolitical landscape, we look as much to philosophers and technologists for guidance as to economists. But historians have a role too. They are uniquely placed to help debate and define the contours of society as these challenges reshape our world, providing much-needed perspective and nuance.

Historians are skilled in building and interpreting varied narratives dealing with change over time. Yet still too many are reluctant to attempt comparison of any kind between past phenomena and contemporary concerns. Far from being irreconcilable opposites, the past and future should be viewed as two sides of the same coin.

OK, great, historians should be included. Super, who would disagree?

Certainly not any economists. At which point a little challenge for Cormac Shine. Or any historian at all. What’s the one great economic fact we’ve got to explain? What, where, is the one piece of historical experience that we’ve got to work out the causes – and if you like the effects – of? Once we’re sure that we’ve got a historian or two who grasps that most essential then sure, why not bring them into the conversation of what to do next about matters economic?

8 comments on “A little test for the historian Cormac Shine

  1. But historians have a role too. They are uniquely placed to help debate and define the contours of society as these challenges reshape our world, providing much-needed perspective and nuance.

    What, like Crypt-Keeper-from-Tales-From-The-Crypt lookalike Mary Beard of “Roman Britain was an episode of Desmond’s” perspective?

    Or Simon Schama of “Oliver Cromwell let my people in so you bastards better get used to unlimited kebab rape” nuance?

  2. What’s the one great economic fact we’ve got to explain? What, where, is the one piece of historical experience that we’ve got to work out the causes – and if you like the effects – of?

    What exactly happened around 1750 and why?

  3. ‘Responsibly engaging with the future as a historian does not mean making bold predictions.’

    ‘David Staley, one of the few historians to look at the future from a historical perspective’

    Looking at the future. How’s he do that?

    ‘instead recommends drawing on context, imparting lessons from the past, and deploying techniques such as scenario building, which analyses historic trends and events to understand likely future situations.’

    So make predictions. Seems bold to me.

  4. “Historians are skilled in building and interpreting varied narratives dealing with change over time.”

    Nice, comforting, multi-cultural, anti-Brexit “narratives”, no doubt. …

  5. Cormac Shine has a Masters in History and is employed by a “six-person think tank dedicated to exploring possible alternative futures and megatrends in order to present innovative views on the nature of society and technology in the coming decades.”

    And he looks like he’s about twelve years old.

    So what it boils down to is The Guardian giving space to a Swiss Juice Boxer devoid of any practical skills (can you say ‘unemployable’?) so he can beg for someone to fund him.

    I guess you gotta print something…

  6. I like the thought experiment of Hannan ( or it could have been De Grasse Tyson ) where he imagines a sophisticated alien visiting shithole planet earth in 1518 with it’s half a billion people, and asking the foreigner to bet which of the Ming or Ottoman will come to dominate the earth by 2018.

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